It’s hard to believe that it’s been 5 years since I started Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW. I realized a few weeks ago that it was my 5 year anniversary, and it completely blew my mind. They say time flies when you’re having fun, right?
The year I started my site was 2009, and it was a crazy and traumatic year. It began with my brother being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February — a scary and devastating diagnosis. He was only 25 at the time, and it came as a huge shock to our whole family. Soldiering through chemotherapy and radiation for most of the year, he was a trooper and inspired us all. We’re so grateful that he’s now 5 years cancer free, which is a huge celebration in itself.
A few months after my brother’s diagnosis, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I hadn’t been feeling well for a while, but I chalked it up mostly to stress and so a Crohn’s diagnosis was another shocker, especially since I’d never been a very sick person throughout my life. Suddenly, I was faced with a whole host of issues, potential surgery and medications.
As a librarian, I wanted to research to give myself some tools & strategies to help deal with my diagnosis. During that time, I started to talk to my doctors about gluten issues and others. And low and behold, it came to be that I had to be gluten free and also dairy free. For about a year before my diagnosis I was having massive problems with dairy — extreme histamine reactions that included literally throwing up every morning after I drank my morning coffee. I assumed it was “seasonal allergies” not realizing that my consuming dairy was actually causing major problems.
Early summer 2009, I went gluten free and then dairy free, which was a huge transition for me. And it was even more of a transition when I began planning a trip to Disney World in August 2009. I couldn’t find many resources out there that really addressed my needs, questions, and concerns. I knew that Disney would be very accommodating but I had no idea to the extent until I actually went for the first time with special dietary needs.
It was amazing. Magical. Momentous. All those things that I anticipated it to be. It made the months of pain, stress, tears, and literal starvation (I was on a liquid diet for almost a month) seem to melt away, just for that long weekend. I ate for the first time in months with real vigor and enjoyed the foods I used to remember loving. There were many tears of joy throughout that trip. And even though I still had some pain, I was making progress (just like in my favorite Disney attraction).
Before I even went on that trip, I knew I wanted to begin documenting my travels to help others. As a librarian, I couldn’t believe how little was out there, and I wanted to do my part to contribute. Like in Spaceship Earth, “to bridge the gaps between us, to communicate.” And communicate I did, with posts every trip I made, with information and tips — anything I could possibly share to help pass along what I had learned to others. And when I moved closer to the magic over 3 years ago, it gave me the ability to help share even more with all of you.
So here we are 5 years later — a truly connected group of special diets folks!
To celebrate this momentous occasion, I first want to say a big thank you to each of you. You are each making a difference and it has been such an honor to get to know you and meet many of you in person. Each one of us are affecting change, even in just a small way. We are making people more aware of special dietary needs each and every day. Who would have thought that 5 years ago there would be gluten free & allergy friendly beignets at Disney?!
I’m grateful for Disney chefs and members of the Disney culinary team, who tirelessly work to make amazing (and safe!) food for each of us. Without them, we wouldn’t eat so well while at the Disney parks & resorts.
To give a little back, I’ve joined with many of my friends in the Disney community to bring to you a giveaway! We’re giving away some awesome goodies, including:
- 2 (yes 2!) – $50 Disney gift cards
- 1 – Special Diets Gift Pack
That’s 3 fab ways to win! And there may be a few other goodies along the way, so stay tuned!
I have to thank all of the folks who are helping contribute to this Disney magic:
- Amanda from Living with the Magic
- Cheryl from the Disney Film Project
- Krista from Disneyways.com
- Jodi from Magical Mouse Schoolhouse
- Kellie from Devoted to the Magic
- Lauren from Focus on the Mouse
- Mary Travel Planner from Mad Hatter Adventures
- Mike from My Dreams of Disney
- Siera from Spreading Magic
- Sid from 3 Minute Travel Tips
- Terri from WDW Hints
Enter to win & let’s celebrate!!